Orders of the Day — Steel Industry and Road Haulage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th November 1951.

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Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , Rotherham 12:00 am, 12th November 1951

When I tried to ask questions during the debate last week I was not allowed to interrupt. What is good to give is not bad to take and, therefore, the hon. Member for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts) is not having any today.

I am glad that our Front Bench has made that statement. The men in the steel industry will rejoice that those who benefit beyond a decent limit of profit, as a result of their labours in turning the geological wealth of the country to defend the country's best interests, shall have every farthing taken from them when we get back into power. I am glad that has been made clear, because I was going to request that someone on our Front Bench should make it clear.

All this talk about patriotism being a lop-sided thing and the prerogative of one party is sheer unadulterated nonsense. So is the attempt to get people to believe that this organisation would be better if it were returned to private enterprise. Eighty-two directors held 720 directorships between them. Only two companies, coming within the ambit of the Act, were not associated or interlocked with one another by directorships.

I suggest to the Minister of Supply that he should send a personal letter to every steel worker in the country, and every one of their managements, reminding them of the position—though they do not need to be reminded. It might run something like this: "Dear Sir and Brother." [Laughter.]Yes, having come to the penitents' bench that should be made completely clear.

The letter would read: "As you have become painfully aware, the country is now under entirely new management. That being so, I have to request, on behalf of the nation, that you should at once increase your production by not less than 10 or 15 per cent."—that is a fair request—"Please do not write and ask me where the raw material is to come from for you so to do. This is a matter which will receive the attention of the Minister during Parliament's eight weeks' holiday. As you are aware, however, it our intention to see to it that the aforesaid increase in production shall be obtained. Do not write back inquiring how this is possible with the decreased strength arising from the fact that you are now going to get less to eat."Why? Because we have had definite decisions already made by the Government that less food is to be made available to those who are doing the work.

"Under Socialism," the letter would continue, "you would have at least the opportunity of asking where the profit that accrued from your labour was to go. As you know from past experience, under the Tories that is none of your business so please do not ask foolish questions. Yours very respectfully (signed) the Minister of Supply. P.S., from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food: Do not allow your wife to see this letter as she will be puzzled as to how to give you the requisite food so that you will have the strength to do the above. P.P.S., from the Ministry of Post Mortems "—which will have to be set up in the near future—"You thought you were doing badly under misery Cripps, but wait until I have finished with you."

That is the sort of letter which I think would secure an immediate response. After all, these best of men are only working 168 hours out of 168. There is quite a lot of time left for them to play about. The letter might add: "In the event of your having some spare time. there is the Home Guard in which you can serve." I do not want to be too facetious, but these debates need not always be conducted in the atmosphere of a mortuary. We shall get there soon enough.

Coming from facetious things to serious matters, I warn the Government to tread warily in this matter. The Government could do nothing worse to upset the morale of these splendid men, many of whom I have the privilege and honour to represent in this House, than for them to learn that in addition to the increase in the Bank rate, which will please the bankers very much, somebody, somewhere, will have an increased dividend arising from their sweat on behalf of the country. I say that with all the sincerity I can command.

This country is down to bedrock—it could not get much lower than it is—arising from the need to defend the property of those who own the most. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It is not nonsense. I know that when the friends of hon. Members opposite are looking after their property they will need two dogs where I will not need one—I have so little to lose. Nobody on the Government benches can say that I have not stumped the country from top to bottom telling the workers what were their duties.